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David Copperfield (novel)

From Academic Kids

David Copperfield or The Personal History Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery which he never meant to be published on any account is a Bildungsroman by Charles Dickens, first published in 1849. Like most of his other works, it originally appeared in serial form (published in monthly installments). Many elements within the novel closely follow events in Dickens's own life, and it is probably the most autobiographical of all of his novels. It is also Dickens's favourite novel.

Contents

1 Story
2 Adaptations
3 Publication
4 External links

Narrative perspective

The story is told almost entirely from the position of the first person narrative, through the voice of David Copperfield himself.

Story

The story is that of the growth of David Copperfield from childhood to maturity. David's father dies before he is born, and he is ill-treated by his cruel stepfather, Mr. Murdstone. He is sent to a private school, Salem House, with a ruthless headmaster, Mr Creakle. Here he befriends James Steerforth and Tommy Traddles, who in true Dickens style leave and then make an appearance in the later part of the novel. When David's beloved mother dies of the emotional torture inflicted on herself and her son by Mr. Murdstone and his sister (Miss Murdstone), Mr. Murdstone sends him to work in the factory which he owns. The grim reality of hand-to-mouth factory existence echoes Dickens's own travails in a blacking factory. David escapes the factory by walking all the way from London to Canterbury, to find his only known relative - his eccentric Aunt Betsy Trotwood - who agrees to bring him up, if only to thwart the evil Murdstones. David's aunt renames him Trotwood Copperfield, and for the rest of the novel the hero is called by either name. One effect of this double-naming is to divide the secondary characters according to when and through whom they got to know him.

The story follows David as he grows to adulthood, and the novel is enlivened by the many (now) well-known characters who enter and leave and re-enter his life. These include: his faithful nurse, Peggotty, her family, and the orphan Little Em'ly who lives with them and charms the young David; his self-serving schoolfriend, Steerforth, who seduces and dishonors Little Em'ly, triggering the novel's greatest tragedy; and his landlord's daughter and ideal "angel in the house", Agnes Wickfield, who becomes his confidante. The two most familiar characters are David's sometime mentor, the constantly in debt Mr. Wilkins Micawber, and David's enemy, the devious and fraudulent clerk, Uriah Heep, whose misdeeds are eventually discovered with Micawber's assistance. Micawber is painted as a sympathetic character, even as the author deplores his financial improvidence; and Micawber, like Dickens's own father, is briefly imprisoned for indebtedness. In classic Dickens style, the major characters get some measure of what they deserve, and few narrative threads are left hanging. David first marries the beautiful but empty-headed Dora Spenlow, but she dies early in their marriage, enabling David to do some soul-searching and eventually to marry and finds true happiness with Agnes, who had secretly always loved him.

Adaptations

David Copperfield has been filmed on several occasions:

Numerous television adaptations of the novel have also been created. Among these were 1966 a version with Ian McKellen as David (more known todays as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings) or 1999 with Daniel Radcliffe (better known as Harry Potter).

Publication

Like most of Charles Dickens's novels, David Copperfield was published in 19 monthly one-shilling installments, containing 32 pages of text and two illustrations by Phiz, with the last being a double-number:

  • I - May 1849 (chapters 1-3);
  • II - June 1849 (chapters 4-6);
  • III - July 1849 (chapters 7-9);
  • IV - August 1849 (chapters 10-12);
  • V - September 1849 (chapters 13-15);
  • VI - October 1849 (chapters 16-18);
  • VII - November 1849 (chapters 19-21);
  • VIII - December 1849 (chapters 22-24);
  • IX - January 1850 (chapters 25-27);
  • X - February 1850 (chapters 28-31);
  • XI - March 1850 (chapters 32-34);
  • XII - April 1850 (chapters 35-37);
  • XIII - May 1850 (chapters 38-40);
  • XIV - June 1850 (chapters 41-43);
  • XV - July 1850 (chapters 44-46);
  • XVI - August 1850 (chapters 47-50);
  • XVII - September 1850 (chapters 51-53);
  • XVIII - October 1850 (chapters 54-57);
  • XIX-XX - November 1850 (chapters 58-64).

External links

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